Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.
This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. (from the Book of Common Prayer)
Lent begins today, on Ash Wednesday. If you live in the English or Spanish speaking world, there is a traditional Ash Wednesday service going on somewhere near you. Check with a local Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopal church. I recommend Ash Wednesday to everyone. At our church, we have three services today: 7:30 a.m., noon, and 6:30 p.m. at 920 Caldwell Lane in Nashville.
I encourage my fellow Christians to observe Lent through whatever disciplines seem best to them. I recommend the reading of Christian spiritual books, the giving up of unnecessary comforts (alcohol, sweets, facebook, etc.), and/or the taking on of a more committed time of prayer and Bible reading. Faithful participation in Sunday morning worship is an excellent way to keep a Holy Lent as well.
Keeping Lent is designed to make more room for the Holy Spirit in your life. Keeping Lent may or may not lead to feelings of joy, sorrow, happiness, or anger. You may or may not alienate a friend, have a spiritual experience, lose weight, or feel grouchy at work. Keeping Lent will not make you more holy or beloved in the eyes of God. Keeping Lent will not save you.
Keep Lent anyway.
Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.